As a young ska music fan, I was first introduced to The Equals when I picked up a copy of "Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys" at a record convention where I was scouring for hard to find ska and reggae records. I had never heard of the band, but the sticker on the sleeve said "The Very First 2-Tone Band!" Of course, I was intrigued and bought it. When I got home and put it on my turntable, what I heard blew my mind. The song wasn't ska and it certainly wasn't reggae. But it was mesmerizing! Derv belted liked James Brown and the band (Eddy Grant, Derv's brother Lincoln, John Hall and Pat Lloyd) mixed fuzzy garage rock and funky R'n B that combined a bi-racial is beautiful message to an anti-Vietnam war call to action ("Black skin blue eyed boys/Ain't gonna fight no wars"). I was smitten. As I did my homework, I learned that Eddy Grant (who at the time was stepping off his sofa into a pool of water in the 'Electric Avenue' video on MTV) was the band's guitarist.
The Equals didn't play ska, but as the very first band featuring both black and white members and native and immigrant musicians, they brought a Caribbean flavor, courtesy of Derv, Lincoln and Eddy to British music of the 60's, adding hints of rocksteady bass lines, upbeat ska guitar and occasional shouts of "Rude Boy!" to their bubble gum pop meets garage punk meets skinhead soul. Best known for the original versions of "Baby Come Back" and "Police On My Back" they were huge across the U.K. Europe and later Africa. The riff for "Baby Come Back" is Hall of Fame worthy in my book (check out the video below of the band performing the song live - its a musical explosion!). And if that's not impressive enough, the band also penned "Rough Rider" (as The Four Gee's) which was famously covered by both Prince Buster and The Beat!